Things wrong with America’s criminal justice system: Second in a series.

Today’s subject: Joe Arpaio!

If you’re lucky enough not to live in AZ, you might not know about Joe Arpaio. He’s the Maricopa County Sheriff signed a promise to serve only one term when he was elected in 1992. He’s still the Sheriff. When it comes to drug warriors, this guy doesn’t mess around. He’s got a self-propelled howitzer with “Sheriff Arpaio’s War on Drugs” painted on it, with some tasteful lightning bolts added for effect.

From a New Yorker profile of Sheriff Joe (pdf):

Arpaio ordered small, heavily publicized deprivations. He banned cigarettes from his jails. Skin magazines. Movies. Coffee. Hot lunches. Salt and pepper–Arpaio estimated that he saved taxpayers thirty thousand dollars a year by removing salt and pepper. Meals were cut to two a day, and Arpaio got the cost down, he says, to thirty cents per meal. “It costs more to feed dogs than it does the inmates,” he told me. Jail, Arpaio likes to say, is not a spa– it’s punishment. He wants inmated whose keenest wish is never to get locked up again. He limits their television, he told me, to the Weather Channel, C-Span, and, just to aggravate their hunger, the Food Network. For a while, he showed them Newt Gingrich speeches. “They hated him,” he said cheerfully. Why the Weather Channel, a British reporter once asked. “So these morons will know how hot it’s going to be while they are working on my chain gangs.”

Arpaio wasn’t kidding about chain gangs. Foreign television reporters couldn’t get enough footage of his inmates shuffling through the desert. New ideas for the humiliation of people in custody–whom the Sheriff calls, with pervasive disgust, “criminals,” although most are actually awaiting trial, not convicted of any crime–kept occurring to him. He put his inmates in black-and-white striped uniforms. The shock value of these retro prisoner outifts was powerful and complex. There was comedy, nostalgia, dehumanization, even a whiff of something annihilationist. He created female chain gangs, “the first in the history of the world,” and, eventualy, juvenile chain gangs.

Joe Arpaio is directly and personally responsible for stillbirths and miscarriages; and the deaths, brain damage, and severe injuries of newborn babies. Women who go into labor while in his jail aren’t allowed to hold or even see their babies after they’re born, even the ones who survive.

Arpaio has a reality show on Fox called “Smile You’re Under Arrest.” The premise of the show is to use big-breasted women and promises of a $300 prize to get people with nonviolent warrants to show up at a nightclub taken over by Joe for this purpose, and filled with paid actors and undercover cops (all at county expense). Then they have to participate- on national television- in either a fashion show or a dancing contest. Joe hides behind a curtain or under a covered table during all this; and after the fashion show or dancing contest is over, he jumps out and arrests them. Meanwhile over 40,000 felony warrants, many of them for rape or murder, go unserved and the homicide rate has jumped 167%. I’m not making this shit up.

He’ll kill your dog and burn your house down if you get in his way (while simultaneously crushing your neighbor’s car with an armored personnel carrier).

He’s got that tent jail in the desert, where you have to wear old-timey striped uniforms with pink underwear, eat substandard food, and work on chain gangs but at least he provides rebar for you (pdf) to make it easier for to beat other inmates to half to death. If you don’t want to read the pdf, the gist of it he got fined over $600,000 because the rebar had been used as weapons before, and he still chose not to secure them from the inmates. The judge said “…among other things, the Sheriff and his deputies had actual knowledge that prisoners used rebar tent stakes and tent poles as weapons and did nothing to prevent it.” Furthermore, “the Sheriff admitted knowing about, and in fact intentionally designing, some conditions at Tent City that created a substantial risk of inmate violence.

Your tent-mates are the least of your worries, however. Joe will beat you death even if you’re blind (and destroy evidence in a cover-up attempt), although to be fair to Joe he really only beat that guy partway to death- he only died after being left unattended in a cell for 6 days from the perforated intestine and broken neck he got from the beating- last time he gets picked up for shoplifting.

Don’t count on a wheelchair earning you any sympathy from America’s Toughest Sheriff, either. If you go to jail as a paraplegic on a 1-gram marijuana possession charge and ask for a catheter to piss in, you might just leave as a quadruplegic after you get a 6-hour ride in a restraint chair followed by a guard breaking your neck.

Hey, at least the chair ride didn’t kill him like it killed Scott Norberg, right? Well, it might not have been the chair- it could have been the stun guns or the towel shoved in his mouth. Joe Arpaio personally conducted an investigation of that incident and “surprisingly” found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the officers involved. The lawsuit found differently to the tune of $8 million, possibly because he got caught destroying evidence again. A man of principle, Joe publicly addressed Norberg’s family and stated that he essentially got what he deserved because he was a drug addict and besides only bad people are in jail anyway.

Mentally-handicapped? Too bad, you might get killed in the chair too- on a loitering charge.

Hope you don’t have diabetes, cause you might not get insulin even if you go and die on him, like Deborah did.

Yeah, Joe sure does love him some wrongful-death lawsuits, combined with all of his other suits, he’s a defendant in almost fifteen hundred cases- if they all come to settlement, Maricopa taxpayers could pay up to $50 million.

Criticizing him in the newspapers or on the Web might get you locked up.

Smokin Joe and his deputies work hard outside of jail too, what with all the racial profiling and immigration crackdowns; so you know they play hard too- nothing takes the edge off like getting a happy ending from a hooker while on the clock. Oh, it was a “sting,” and sure, 60 of the 70 cases got thrown out due to that gross misconduct, but hey, got to break some eggs you know.

My next Arpaio fun fact really stretches the imagination. He staged his own assassination attempt, involving blowing up his personal $70,000 armored vehicle with a pipe bomb. He created an elaborate sting culminating in a televised arrest of the “assassin,” who was quickly released when courts saw that he had been entrapped and most of the plot was in fact fabricated by Arpaio.

But what would Joe be without a sidekick? Meet Andy Thomas, Joe’s District Attorney who took a break from editing his own Wikipedia entry to prosecute a 16-year old boy (seeking a *ninety year* sentence- without parole) for showing a Playboy to some of his classmates. Oh, he was arrested in an early morning tactical raid and his family held at gunpoint; the family would go on to spend over $250,000 in legal fees and even when the child porn charges were thrown out he *still* tried to get the boy listed as a sex offender. Andy’s other adventures include spending $2 million of taxpayer money on TV commercials about himself. Not campaign commercials, just pointless self-promotion commercials. He had a “crime-prevention book” published, which was also largely self-promotion and included portraits of himself in it. Looking at his wiki entry now, there are some curious edits which weren’t there the last time I checked, so maybe he’s had some down time lately to brush it up.

Let’s hear Joe in his own words-

“I put women on chain gangs, and I’ll be putting juveniles on chain gangs in a month or two… they like being on chain gangs.” “I spend $0.40 day on inmates, and $1.50 on dogs, the dogs get air conditioning.”

Arpaio's War on Drugs

(Most of this post is courtesy of SA’s HidingFromGoro. )

10 thoughts on “Things wrong with America’s criminal justice system: Second in a series.

  1. i am absolutely speechless. this psychopath needs to be deported to siberia/the bottom of the bottom of the ocean. men like him give humanity a terrible name.

  2. Don’t forget that Joe Arpaio is responsible for a 48 year old retarded woman being left without in a metal punishment cage in 107 degree Arizona heat until she died after 5 hours.

    Her crime was prostitution.

    That will show her who is in charge of her vagina!

  3. so its good to see that your story is backed up by some reputable sources like the “NEW TIMES” which is one of those free news papers that you see at bus stops and street corners in the bad parts of town right next to the “autotrader en espanol” and the adverts for strip clubs. not to mention the other great source overthrow Arpaio .com…

    the Sheriff may be an attention hound and he may be “cruel” but he GETS THINGS DONE

    just to let you know the Howitzer was donated by the Department of Defense and is used as a tool to teach children about the dangers of drug abuse (similar to the D.A.R.E. program)

  4. “just to let you know the Howitzer was donated by the Department of Defense and is used as a tool to teach children about the dangers of drug abuse (similar to the D.A.R.E. program)”

    What in the hell does a Howitzer have to do with teaching kids about drugs?

  5. You idiot! Sheriff Joe is awesum and I wish we had a Sheriff like him in every county in the US. Not only is he doing his job well, he has an approval rating of over 80% and gets elected every term by an enormous landslide. Sounds like you are an illegal in fear of being deported.

  6. Joe Arpaio doesn’t get shit done. He might kill illegal Mexicans once in awhile, but homicide rates in Maricopa county have increased steadily since 2004. Instead of being “tough on crime” for the cameras, he should be “smart on crime”. Results are utterly unimportant to Arizonans–what matters is the appearance of confidence and authority in a leader.

  7. Great article, wonder not. The headline of this article could also have the name ‘Is the things right with america’s justice criminal system’. Well anyway let’s just hope that the justice would rise above this neo-Il duce, and a neo-version of Robin Hood or another big hero would bring him for the court, for the hororfieng way, that he rules that county. He is a very great candidate Nürnberg…

  8. Super-Duper website! I’m loving it!! Will come again again – taking you feeds also, Thanks.
    Hello. Fantastic position. I didn’t expect this on the Wednesday. This is a wonderful story. Thanks!

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